Earlier this week I wrote about a trigger I had when I came across someone that mentioned Joshua Harris’ 1997 book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” Today I got a comment from Kristen over at The Ungodly Woman who let me know that Mr Harris has started apologizing to people for the negative effects of his book and is starting to revaluate this book he wrote as a 21 year old.
This got me curious, so I looked up further info about these events and I came across his page where he is asking for feedback about the book and how it affected people. There is a mixture of good and bad on his page where he is publishing those that are ok with their words being published.
I wrote to him myself, and I thought I’d share with you what I wrote:
Earlier this week I had been reminded of your book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and wrote a blogpost about the negative effects the evangelical youth culture of the ‘90s had on me that included your book and the True Love Waits movement. I had not been aware that you had started apologizing for your part in that until a follower let me know in the comments. …Which led me to look up articles that eventually led me here.
Firstly, I want to say I do think your book was well intentioned and there are certain aspects that have nuggets of truth to be found. However; your book was used as a weapon against me and my friends.
Many of the youth in this culture cleaved to these ideas and I have found that when Christian ideals such as these are taken on so strictly – and the ideals and rules are handed to youth for them to interpret for their own lives, it can be damaging.
I myself tried so hard to fit into this culture, even going as far as doing a monologue from your book for my theatre class. I wanted to appear to fit in, but found myself looking in from the outside more and more.
I took on board the courtship to the end of marriage at a much too young an age and ended up in a sexually abusive relationship with an older boy from my youth group. But I was sure we were to be married someday; and so was he.
While we didn’t go “all the way,” my experiences with him later led to the outright shaming of me through other church groups when I tried to discuss my experiences with anyone else as I got older. My mother was told I was “promiscuous,” and my parents forced me to sign a True Love Waits contract.
This was the beginning of the end of my belief in the evangelical teachings. These teachings ended up making me feel less than and dirty. Especially as “Good Christian Boys” I would try to be friends with would a.) assume I was asking them out and then b.) reject me saying they don’t date or court “girls like” me. …These boys, as I was older, wouldn’t even know about my past – yet I still got the prevailing feeling that somehow they knew I wasn’t “pure” and therefore not worthy of their attention.
Later, I witnessed other friends have similar issues. A girl that got thrown out of her house when she lost her virginity; another girl who submitted to some sexual activity with a boy who then berated her and shamed her about being a temptress… only to come back to her repeatedly asking for more.
By the time I was 16 I was still on one hand seeking approval from church people, but inwardly I knew I would never truly receive it. I decided I needed to handle relationships and sexual experiences on my own terms – and I ended up losing my “virginity” completely two months before my 17th birthday.
I would still consider whether a guy might be worth marrying, but if my internal gut feeling was “no,” that didn’t stop me from dating them. I am so very glad that I left the ideas from your book and that culture behind. If I had courted to marry that first boy – of whom my parents approved – or even married the second boy I dated… I would have had a less than optimal life to say the least.
Looking back now and realizing how young you were at the time, it is surprising that so many millions of people would take your advice as next-to-gospel when it comes to relationships. But I also realize that your book was a product of the culture and it would have been out of your hands at how popular it would have become – and how many people would have taken it so seriously.
That being said, I wish I had never read it. I wish my parents didn’t buy it for me and I wish the churches we attended/the youth culture in general hadn’t cleaved to it so dearly.